Tomato Juice. With Clams.

I showed up at Charlottetown Airport this morning bright and early at 6:00 a.m. ready for my 6:45 a.m. flight. Usually at this hour there are one or two people in line, never more than 5 or 6. Today there were about 25. I immediately knew something was up.

It turns out that our flight to Montreal was to happen on a plane that was to have arrived last night, but didn’t. So there was no plane. And the flight was cancelled.

Not that Air Canada bothered to tell us this: there was an informal information gravevine running up and down the line; with each new person to the desk we’d here a little more — next flight at noon, no compensation, lots of problems with connections.

I had the misfortune of being directly behind two groups travelling to southeast Asia. The lack of an early flight meant that their entire itinerary had to be rearranged. Needless to say, troopers though they may be, the Air Canada counter staff in Charlottetown aren’t experts at planning multi-connection trans-Pacific itineraries. It took awhile.

I finally got to the head of the line around 7:30 a.m. — just over an hour of standing — and was resassigned to a Noon flight, putting me in Boston at 3:00 p.m., four hours late and after the meetings downtown that were specially planned to accommodate my travel plans. I suppose I should feel lucky: the woman travelling to Vietnam was going to be 24 hours late arriving there.

All the while the flight information screens — still reading Standard Time — were announcing that the flight for Montreal was “Boarding.” Except there was no plane. And no flight.

As with most of my “Air Canada is evil incarnate” posts my chief peeve with Air Canada’s behaviour is their attitude more than whether or not they happen to have the right planes in the right place. Air Canada is as much in the information business as it is in the people moving business, but it doesn’t seem to realize that.

How about an email last night when you knew the plane wasn’t going to be there? How about an announcement over the PA in the terminal to soothe the jangled nerves of those of us in line? How about an apology when we finally got to the counter? How about flight informations screens that give information. About flights.

The impression one is left with from Air Canada today is that they’ll little concept that their customers use their planes to go real places and do real things. Things with deadlines. And hurt feelings. Things that Matter. They seem to think that if they get you to your destination, eventually, they’ve done their bit.

As soon as I knew I was going to miss my Boston meetings I immediately sent a heads-up email to my colleagues at Yankee, and then followed up with a couple of phone calls once the hour was more reasonable. Not a perfect solution, but at least I cared enough to keep them in the loop. It’s a shame my airline couldn’t extend the same courtesy.

Oh yah, the tomato juice. I’m not sure if this is a uniquely Canadian thing, but all Air Canada flights and lounges server Mott’a Clamato juice, which is tomato juice mixed with clam broth. I’ve never seen this on another airline — Catherine asked once on JAL in Tokyo and they looked at her real strange. The only time I drink Mott’s Clamato juice is when I fly Air Canada. Normally the idea would frighten and disgust my, but in the total perspective vortex that is flying, it seems quite right. The Extra Spicy is especially nice.

Comments's picture on April 4, 2005 - 18:21 Permalink

I had a similar incident with Air Canada recently. Six of us are travelling to Peru in three weeks. We had booked our Air Canada tickets over four months ago. While booking another trip a few weeks back I ended up on the schedule page that shows the frequency of all/most of AC’s flights. The flight we were reserved on for Peru was no longer listed. After a few frantic phone calls I ended up talking to a nice lady at Air Canada. She informed me the flight had been removed over a month ago BUT I could rest assured because our reservations were moved to the earlier flight….two days earlier! We had to change over half a dozen accommodation and tour reservations as a result. The lady wasn’t sure if we would have received a call or email about the change.

The most entertaining part was that they only changed the dates of one of our segments to Peru. They had us flying from Ch’town to Toronto on April 27, then departing Toroton for Peru on April 25… brilliant.

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on April 4, 2005 - 19:55 Permalink

The Motts Clamato is used for that all-Canadian drink, the Caesar, Canada’s #1 cocktail. I guess as a Canadian airline, Air CANADA want to serve a national drink, much as I suppose you get good wine on Air France, and, presumably, good vodka on Aeroflot!

Motts is owned by the Cadbury Schweppes conglomerate. From their site:

Clamato Tomato Cocktail is a light and refreshing zesty drink with a blend of tomatoes, onions, celery, spices and a dash of clam. Introduced by Mott’s in 1969, the innovative Clamato opened seafood blends as a new and unexpected category of juice. Today Clamato is the number one selling seafood blend from northern Canada to southern Mexico.

One key force driving Clamato’s popularity is the Bloody Caesar Cocktail. This Canadian invention — Clamato mixed with vodka — was created by Walter Chell to celebrate the opening of Marco’s restaurant in Alberta in 1969, and is Canada’s favourite cocktail. More than 250 million Mott’s Clamato Caesars are sold each year throughout Canada. In 2002 Motts introduced a ready-to-drink version of the cocktail, which quickly became the number three brand in the “ready to drink” category.

Clamato is also extremely popular with Hispanic consumers and aficionados of seafood blends. Still growing in popularity by leaps and bounds, Clamato is a mixer with as much potential as appeal.

Nils's picture
Nils on April 4, 2005 - 20:08 Permalink

Compare and contrast my experience with RyanAir out of the UK. The family and I are flying from Glasgow to Paris in late May. Ryanair changed the time of that flight and immediately e-mailed me with apologies, the new information, a new itinerary for everybody, recommendations about travel insurance changes that might be required, an offer to co-ordinate car rental or accomodations, and a click-through link to acknowledge being informed of all changes. Part of this is arguably to limit the fall-out from dissatisfied customers … but hey, ain’t it nice that they CARE whether their customers are dissatisfied?

I sometimes come off as a defender of Air Canada, because for all the travelling I do (which is more than most folks), my problems with AC have been rare. But most often I find the individuals who work at Air Canada are pleasant and co-operative … and sometimes embarrassed by a corporation that doesn’t value them or its customers.

Julie's picture
Julie on April 5, 2005 - 01:33 Permalink

The only time I ever drink Clamato juice is when I am flying…I thought it was a stronge coincidence that others do the same thing. I have often, OFTEN, had my flights changed on me and not been informed by AC. It is unforunate that Westjet has not yet come to the Island as I have always had a very pleasent experience with them and their staff is exponentially more helpful than any staff member I have encountered at AC.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 5, 2005 - 03:35 Permalink

Just to finish the day off with a bang: I went through four cars at Budget before I got one that wasn’t (a) a smokers car, (b) a giant boat, and (c) disallowed from leaving the lot because the paperwork didn’t match the car. I spent a full hour in the and around the Budget office. I should just admit defeat and pay the higher prices at Hertz to get the flawless service I always experienced there.

Leo's picture
Leo on April 5, 2005 - 21:39 Permalink

I think you should find a way to inform Air Canada how by email or other means they can contact their customers in case of the situation you described where they needlessly show up for a flight which is not leaving.

Secondly, I am convinced Clamato Juice is a distinctly Canadian thing — when I travel to Southern Maine to visit a friend , I try to bring some along for him to enjoy as he can’t acquire it South of the Border.

Greg's picture
Greg on April 6, 2005 - 20:20 Permalink

What a trip, Peter!!!

I’m not surprised about your experience with Air Canada. It’s unfortunate that our “national air carrier” (i.e. the one the government bails out each time it goes bankrupt) doesn’t care about its customers more. I’ve heard of many similar experiences.

I’m also convinced that Leo’s suggestion won’t do any good, because of the union-mentality bureaucracy that exists in Air Canada… it seems to be that a valid suggestion like that would get deleted, because the employee who would read it will say “it’s not my job”. As with many large companies, the problem stems from management’s reactive, rather than pro-active approach to customer service. It would be nice to see Air Canada’s execs and managers take an interest in their front-line people as well as their customers (instead of thier own bonuses!!!)

And… God Bless Clamato Juice!!! I take my Caesars extra spicy…on an airplane, as well as on the back porch, at a mid-summer barbecue!!!

Tim Dziuba's picture
Tim Dziuba on July 1, 2005 - 15:12 Permalink

I have a friend in Phuket, Thialand, & he craves clamato juice. Does any one know if I can ship, buy in thialand or contact Air Can. to leave some at the airport since they serve it o the plane out of Vancouver.
I have enjoyed Clamato juice for many years & garnish it with pickled asparagus. Happy Canada Day & enjoy your ceasar.

Landry Rafa's picture
Landry Rafa on October 4, 2005 - 04:00 Permalink

Uncy Tim!! What the hell?!? Calm Juice to Thailand?!?


Landry Rafa's picture
Landry Rafa on October 4, 2005 - 04:00 Permalink

Uncy Tim!! What the hell?!? Clam Juice to Thailand?!?


Landry Rafa's picture
Landry Rafa on April 10, 2006 - 03:40 Permalink

So Tim, ah ha! Hmmmm….yes indeed. Is this properly insane?? It is for the Turnstiles after all, like Neil Young would say. I do think that Senior Lightfoot with his olive green buttercrock from 1921 would be pleased with asparagus in his ceaser….I think we should overhaul that motor in my sister’s 1969 Beetle. Any comments, Mr. Peabody?

Alison Krauss is my lover…………

Landry Rafa's picture
Landry Rafa on November 8, 2006 - 06:54 Permalink

AHHH yes!! Mr. Rock of Ages. We were asleep when the land was set to die on the Plains of Abraham in 1812. Canada defeated the cocksucking USA. So Uncle Tim, you make $1400/day? Can I have $400 of that? You will still be making $1000/day. Are you greedy or will you subsidize my farming operation. And by greedy, I mean shoving that $400 into the throat of crooked government slot machine in which you can never really win?? Senior Lightfoot would agree with me. He is a wise Scotchman.

Tim's picture
Tim on December 30, 2006 - 11:46 Permalink

What are you mixing in those ceasars my nephew. Sounds like you should get into selling & exporting ceasars instead of farming.
Drop me a line direct when you have time.
And yes I know where the VLT profits are going!!

Landry's picture
Landry on January 6, 2008 - 03:33 Permalink

Didn’t think you’d ever see that…..oh well. Maybe I had a couple too many ceaser’s. Extra stiff…….